The wages of the righteous is life,
but the earnings of the wicked are sin and death.
Both the righteous and the wicked earn wages from their respective labors. But those wages lead to different ends. The contrast of the ends is not quite what we would expect. If the wage of the righteous leads to life, then shouldn’t the gain of the wicked lead to death? Isn’t it redundant to speak of the wicked being led to sin?
Perhaps the proverb has the same concept in mind as that written in Romans 1:18ff. Verse 18 notes: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” How is that wrath revealed? Note the following: “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity” (v. 24); “For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions” (v.26); “God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done” (v.28).
All, then, that the wicked gain by their sin is to be given up to committing further sin, which leads them further into judgment. As much as children may dislike discipline, every child knows that it is worse to be given up on, especially by one’s parents. It seems fun to get away with sin for a while, but when the father or the mother gives up in exasperation, and you are left with the feeling of having no one to care, particularly with no one to have hope in you, such wages are bitter indeed. Such wages lead to a living death.
As restrictive as the righteous life may seem for the time, is it not much better to live a life that leads to life? A life that is full of life? It was the way Christ followed and the life he offers now to those who believe and follow.
9 Now when all the kings west of the Jordan heard about these things – the kings in the hill country, in the western foothills, and along the entire coast of the Mediterranean Sea as far as Lebanon (the kings of the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites) – 2 they came together to wage war against Joshua and Israel.
3 However, when the people of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai, 4 they resorted to a ruse: they went as a delegation whose donkeys were loaded with worn-out sacks and old wineskins, cracked and mended. 5 They put worn and patched sandals on their feet and wore old clothes. All the bread of their food supply was dry and mouldy. 6 Then they went to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal and said to him and the Israelites, ‘We have come from a distant country; make a treaty with us.’
7 The Israelites said to the Hivites, ‘But perhaps you live near us, so how can we make a treaty with you?’
8 ‘We are your servants,’ they said to Joshua.
But Joshua asked, ‘Who are you and where do you come from?’
9 They answered: ‘Your servants have come from a very distant country because of the fame of the Lord your God. For we have heard reports of him: all that he did in Egypt, 10 and all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan – Sihon king of Heshbon, and Og king of Bashan, who reigned in Ashtaroth. 11 And our elders and all those living in our country said to us, “Take provisions for your journey; go and meet them and say to them, ‘We are your servants; make a treaty with us.’” 12 This bread of ours was warm when we packed it at home on the day we left to come to you. But now see how dry and mouldy it is. 13 And these wineskins that we filled were new, but see how cracked they are. And our clothes and sandals are worn out by the very long journey.’
14 The Israelites sampled their provisions but did not enquire of the Lord. 15 Then Joshua made a treaty of peace with them to let them live, and the leaders of the assembly ratified it by oath.
16 Three days after they made the treaty with the Gibeonites, the Israelites heard that they were neighbours, living near them. 17 So the Israelites set out and on the third day came to their cities: Gibeon, Kephirah, Beeroth and Kiriath Jearim. 18 But the Israelites did not attack them, because the leaders of the assembly had sworn an oath to them by the Lord, the God of Israel.
The whole assembly grumbled against the leaders, 19 but all the leaders answered, ‘We have given them our oath by the Lord, the God of Israel, and we cannot touch them now. 20 This is what we will do to them: we will let them live, so that God’s wrath will not fall on us for breaking the oath we swore to them.’ 21 They continued, ‘Let them live, but let them be woodcutters and water-carriers in the service of the whole assembly.’ So the leaders’ promise to them was kept.
22 Then Joshua summoned the Gibeonites and said, ‘Why did you deceive us by saying, “We live a long way from you,” while actually you live near us? 23 You are now under a curse: you will never be released from service as woodcutters and water-carriers for the house of my God.’
24 They answered Joshua, ‘Your servants were clearly told how the Lord your God had commanded his servant Moses to give you the whole land and to wipe out all its inhabitants from before you. So we feared for our lives because of you, and that is why we did this. 25 We are now in your hands. Do to us whatever seems good and right to you.’
26 So Joshua saved them from the Israelites, and they did not kill them. 27 That day he made the Gibeonites woodcutters and water-carriers for the assembly, to provide for the needs of the altar of the Lord at the place the Lord would choose. And that is what they are to this day.